Tag Archives: bing

Google Still On Top

Not that it should be any great surprise, but when comScore released the the search data they’ve compiled for the November 2012 search volumes, Google was at the top of the pack. The search giant is still sitting neatly and strongly at the head of the marketplace with more than two thirds of the monthly search volume, with Bing and Yahoo (powered by Bing) search taking up just over a quarter of the search market.

It should be a rather pointed argument against the hype Bing enjoys conjuring up in the news, both search and technological, that even with their Bing it on challenge and the fuss that they made about the Google shopping services, public usage of Google actually went up from Octobers numbers. It doesn’t sound like much, it was 0.1% increase, but when you’re talking about billions of searches, even that small of a number means a massive amount of search data.

Last month there was somwhere in the neighborhood of 17 billion searches performed, and that was just in the U.S., so where did you and your website come up? If you find that you’re not able to easily answer that question without talking to your website administrators, there are a few basic steps you can look into. You won’t end up with a definite numbered position where you ranked in search, but it will give you an idea as to the kind of chances you’ve given your brand online to rank.

When you approved your site design, did you make sure to stay away from an all graphic, or highly graphic website with little to no textual content on your home page? Your home page is your primary bait which you use to display yourself online. Is your information relevant to your business, and are you an authority in your space? It’s incredibly important to make sure you have your content well written, and at the same time try and stay away from industry specific terms as you can cut yourself off from potential leads. Occasionally it’s a good idea to just read your website through, clicking on all of your navigation points to see if everything is in order and makes sense. Sometimes, you might give your own content a once over and realize that some information you’ve included is no longer applicable to your niche and instead of helping your visibility online, it’s hampering your position. Lastly, talk to your online branding associate and try and keep an open line of communication. Nothing can slow down your online growth like leaving emails and phone calls unanswered.

Positive Outlook for Search in 2013

Online branding and marketing techniques will always be changing and evolving to match the ebb and flow of the web and those who use it. This year especially saw a wide range of changes with the search industry and how Google in particular indexes the web. Major changes such as Panda, Penguin and the EMD (exact match domain) update put some webmasters in the unsavory position of having lost rankings and traffic. Depending on how badly they were affected, some still haven’t recovered lost traffic and potential income.

It hasn’t been all bad though, it’s been a good year in the sense that the word has spread of the differences in the quality of service that some companies can provide you. It’s a fairly safe bet for example, if a search marketing company has pitched working on your companies site, while extoling the dangers and pitfalls of Panda and Penguin, that they’ve been caught and penalized by the system. Call it once bitten twice shy, but it’s safe to say thhat they’ve been shown they’re not doing things quite right, and have have been slapped with a penalty as a result. With the growth of awareness where the quality of your site and how it’s constructed overall, a fair amount of the fly by night experts have disappeared from the playing field, and as an added bonus, there has been an all around increase in online marketing budgets for the coming year. So as we have written in the past, the wheat has been separated from the chaff and as an added bonus – budgets have increased!

Hopefully the changes in the search industry haven’t scared you off from building or promoting your website, the key element we’ve always focused on helping our clients with is by focusing on the content. While a great deal of pretenders have lost position and relevance in the industry with Panada and Penguin, working the quality content angle as we always have proved to be a strong element to remaining at the top of the results page. Going forward into 2013 we’ll continue to deliver strong positioning for our clients, and help them dominate the SERPs for their desired terms. With the loss of some of the local ‘experts’ it’s only made our job easier in the coming year.

2013 – Search, Social, and Beyond

Using the web to find the information and services isn’t a difficult task, most of the time it can be a mundane process to tell the truth. You visit your preferred search provider, type in your terms and go from there. So why such the big deal about who stole what idea from whom, and the fuss over having social results in our search results when they’re entirely different pieces of information?

Because after all, that’s all the web is, a cluster of information which you cherry pick what you want from it. Google has their knowledge graph, which is like looking at a Coles notes version of what you’ve searched for, and Bing has recently adopted the idea and called it Snapshots. It provides the same brief information delivery niche, and likely doesn’t get noticed a good 70% of the time. It’s not because Googles version is just that much better, they’re virtually identical in how they display and offer data, and it likely gets passed over just as much as the Bing variation. It’s just another method to getting the information out there when you search.

How about the social side of the web, there’s Facebook, the dinosaur of Myspace and Google+. Facebook is the monster on the web, with more than a billion accounts passed this year, if they can just figure out what to do with all of the noise that the site generates, perhaps it can come out with some useable information at some point. Because Facebook doesn’t really have a way to generate money, it has it’s few ads that it runs and preferred postings, but that’s been done before and as much as people on the web like change, the ad spaces on Facebook don’t get used anywhere near the same level as the spaces on Yahoo, Bing and Google.

Bing and Google both have their own ideas for meshing the social side of the web into the informative side, but neither has found that magic formula that delivers what the users of today are looking for. On average when someone completes a search, they’re already 50% of the way qualified, either as a buyer or a subscriber – they were prompted by something outside the web in the first place. Facebook doesn’t have the search fomula nailed down to provide any kind of search results page, and the search engines haven’t worked out how to weave the social side of the web into the informational. Yet.

We’ve seen the web grow in leaps and bounds over the last year, the search algorithms have taken the results pages through dips, dives, ducks and doges, and 2013 will likely continue more of the same. The year is likely going to start out fast and who knows, maybe the world will finally see the ideal implementation of a social and search mix on a results page.

How Many Results Are Too Many

An interesting point to notice about a search engine, is just how many results are returned when performing a search. Google and Bing have indexed trillions of pages if you mixed them together, an always increasing amount. Some written articles have called it a problem, but Google and Bing rarely display any results passed the 1000 range, even if it says that it found 25,000,000 results for your query.

It isn’t so much a problem that they don’t display a value larger than 1000 results, the question should really be ‘Do they need to?’ The search engines like to pride themselves on delivering the most relevant results, based on what you’ve searched for, your past history and so on. If you’re a fan of having a no strings attached type search, using a search engine like DuckDuckGo may be more up your alley, but the first point still remains. What point does it serve if a search engine tells you it finds millions of results, and doesn’t show you them.

Let’s take the following quick search from Google, for ice cream. We’re in Winnipeg, so we were returned the results for the Wikipedia entry, and then we got into the local restaurants and dessert places that purvey ice cream. But when you look at how many results are returned, 463,000,000.. is that entirely relevant? I don’t need that many results about ice cream, it’s not that wide of a variable product, but Google has said they have that many results. This is where some written pieces have said that there is a problem, even though it says that it has 463,000,000 results, I can’t browse passed the first 1,000 results even though there’s been so many returned. It’s more a personal preference, but some very basic math (default search results pages show 10 results) says, why would I be looking on page 46 million to see what has been indexed about ice cream?

Where online marketing and your brand are concerned, you shouldn’t worry about what is showing in terms of how many pages have been returned that have been indexed. There are some sites and pages from the early 90s that can still be found, which are horrid where aesthetics and usability are concerned if you’d really like to find them. The vast majority of search users don’t go to page 2, let alone page 3 or 4, chances are if their result hasn’t been found on their first search they’re going to revise their terms and try again. Focus on your content, focus on being relevant, and focus on the basics. Don’t worry about the other 463 million results.

Rapid Web Growth Needs Forward Thinkers

Typically when you want to learn the answer to a question, or you want to find the name of that actor in the show you saw, you turn to the internet. Most of the time you have an idea on what site you need to visit to learn your answers, but when you’re not entirely sure where to start you always go back to the beginning of the web. While it’s not really the beginning of the web, search engines do a great job of being a front page, which you can use to access the information you’re looking for.

The web, the way that we interact with it, websites, and search engines have all changed a great deal since this whole thing began. At first the web was just some random websites, that in order to access you needed the IP to get to them. Primarily text based and only informational, it was no where near what we have today. Search engines, Google especially so, have caught the attention of the world. Privacy issues, defamation cases, anti-trust lawsuits, all of them pointed at the largest web index out there, mostly because they’re number one. There is absolute truth about the way Google shares your account information with any devices you use while signed in, it’s how the service learns to deliver you results which you might be interested in. Anti-trust suits are growing mostly for the same reasons that they did against Microsoft a while back with their Internet Explorer browser and how EU users felt they weren’t given a choice with the Windows OS (largely paraphrased). And defamation suits may pick up steam with the recent ruling in Australia, that Google can be viewed as a publisher of the search results page, making them liable for the links they post. In all of these cases the thinking is fairly basic, if you can make the biggest fish in the sea change the way it operates, everyone else will likely follow suit.

A point it seems that lawyers and judges seem to forget however, is that the web is a much bigger place than it was even a few years ago. With somewhere in excess of 2 billion connected users, websites, search engines, and every online resource has had to rapidly change to serve their visitors needs. Search engines like Google and Bing, developed an instant answer service which immediately displays results based on what you’re searching for, based on the most searched terms currently. Instant results vary a fair amount every couple of weeks and often more frequently, but the key point that seems to be ignored: the terms used in autocomplete are the most popular terms that have been searched so far. Your autocomplete searches will vary greatly depending on your search history, the top search trends and the your local search activity. Unfortunately for Google and any other search engine that uses a results page of any kind, the mantra of ‘don’t shoot the messenger’ is still largely unheeded in current court cases.

Bing Scroogled Themselves

There’s a lot of noise being made lately from the Bing side of the web about how Google isn’t playing by the good old search rules and they’ve coined their term ‘Scrooogled’. I find the term a bit of comedy, as Scroogle used to be an anonymous way to search via Google by blocking cookies and not using log files, but instead of focusing on a service that no longer exists I had a read of Bings press release on the matter.

The title: “Don’t get Scroogled: Bing Launches Campaign for Honest Search..” I shortened it a bit as it’s rather long, but it sounds like they want to help search engine users find relevant results. It didn’t take long for Bing to get into the numbers of things, a projected $96 billion in online shopping this year, but perhaps a little generous when saying half of that comes from search engines. That number is likely lower than that, but, let’s disregard that for the moment – most online shoppers use a site like Amazon to find their deals online. It didn’t take very long for Bing to start comparing apples to oranges though, because very quickly in their blog posting they talk about how the Google Shopping results are based partially on paid inclusion – much like you would do with running an profitable Adwords campaign. For those who have never seen the admin side of the Adwords platform, once you’ve set your bid and ad, Google gives you a projection of where they think you’ll place within the results. They’re by no means set in stone and change day to day based on bid, competition on your terms, and so on.

Google shopping results versus Bing shopping resultsWhy I use the apples to oranges comparison however is because Bing is comparing search results, to shopping results, and saying that Bing is playing by the “old search rules” where Google Shopping is not. you can’t really compare Bing web search to Google Shopping search, as it would be like comparing Google web search to Amazon shopping search, they serve different functions and as a result, function completely different. In May of this year Google Commerce published a blog describing how the change to the shopping side of their product was going to begin to use a paid metric to help build on the relevance of the results, because a retailer wouldn’t pay for an ad to list a fake product. It is like advertising using billboards or radio ads to try and reach more consumers, it’s just another marketing medium to get your product out there. So to skip ahead just a little, Bing is comparing their organic web search, to Google’s Shopping search results – an apples to oranges comparison.

In the interest of fairness, I decided to have a look at the Bing shopping results, versus the Google shopping results. Being that we’re now comparing apples to apples, if there is a disparity it shouldn’t be too difficult to spot. I searched for the likeliest top sellers for the holiday shopping season, and was surprised at every turn. Not by the results that Google served me, but by the lack of results Bing returned. Each results page was sorted by relevance, and I’ll just let the screenshots speak for themselves.

The Importance of Online Image Protection

There’s been a case of defamation in an Australian court where it was claimed that Google (knowingly) defamed someone by tying him to organized crime, both in organic and image search. Google was found guilty by jury, and has been ordered to pay a fine of what amounts to about 30 seconds of work for them ($200,000), but it’s not the fine that has the company a bit worried, it’s the precedent that it would be setting. Google is currently in the process of appealing the decision, we’ll all have to wait to see what happens.

The case was launched off of the search results for both organic and image listings which showed the claimant with ties to the local crime scene. Google responded that they’re not in control of the results page, that they merely list what has been observed as being popular search terms for the area. It sounds like a weak argument, but you can see how Google tracks their top trends by looking at Google Trends, you get a very brief glimpse into what the top searches were for the last day or so.

Back to why this is a bad idea however, to hold Google accountable as a publisher, and not as an information provider. The jury in this particular case decided that Google was guilty as a publisher and created the page which delivered the false information, and the images pages that are served up when you search are Google specific creations. As anyone who has any experience working with images online can tell you, there is the alt tag which can be used to give an image a text like value, which can then be indexed by the search engines. The image results page is actually the most recent target by black hat manipulators the last couple of months, not only because of this feature but it helps them get listed much quicker than pushing for listings in the center of the page.

Google being declared a publisher of the search results pages makes them accountable for the comments that came up in search, even though they never actually created the content themselves. It’s happened a handful of times that have made the news in recent years, with Rick Santorum being the most recent victim of results page manipulations by spammers and some other unscrupulous methods, but the results pages were driven by the users and by the most frequently used search terms. Blaming any search engine, not just Google for the aforementioned issue is like blaming your mechanic for your bus being late getting you to work. Once something is on the internet it’s also notoriously difficult to try and remove, ask anyone of the stars out there who have unflattering photos which pop up from time to time, once it’s online, it is forever. This also brings up the point of online brand protection, and the importance of a positive relationship in the local scene, with proper brand management mistakes like this can be captured and stopped before they begin.

The ruling sets a scary precedent in a way, as if it stands then it opens the door to an increasingly censored internet. Add into the mix that the ITU will be meeting in just a couple of weeks and the issue of net neutrality and freedom of use and access starts to become a threatened point.

Relative Search, Semantic Search, Presumptive Search?

Search is a finicky thing on it’s own, let alone when you start throwing all sorts of (seemingly) random variables to serve the results pages. Both Bing and Google have their own set of checks and balances which they use to deliver the results page based on your search terms. As varied as the internet is, there will be metrics that both of the algorithms use, and the differing ones are those that make the search results unique in their own way. These algorithms that are in use have developed and grown over time, as has the search market and the way it functions as a whole.

The search market started out in a very basic way, you typed in the terms you wanted to find information on, and the spiders searched through their index that they’d built and tried to return to you the results they felt best matched your request. The query you used was taken by the spiders and they searched for the exact terms and anything that matched it, search began as a relative function. As the definition goes, relative means in relation to, so if you searched the term ‘red rose’ as an example, you’d not only get images and descriptions of flowers, but you’d also likely end up with pages of the baking flour as well. Both items are relative to the search term you’ve entered, so it would make sense to a bot to show you both, as it couldn’t discerne what you were searching for.

Now the web has grown up a lot, it’s started to mature and has developed some, almost scary, tricks. It’s a term which has been thrown around a lot in the last 6 months especially, but it’s regarding the growing nature of semantic search. The simplest way to describe it would be with that same term from relative search – ‘red rose’ – with the way the web and search is evolving the bot would act intelligently. It’s being seen more and more often in Google, Bing and the social networks out there, because you’re an avid baker, the bots would likely serve you results pages more populated with the baking flour, and associated websites with recipes on it. Now it won’t bet the farm on you wanting the baking results, so you’d also receive some of the flower on your page, but it’s a best guess situation.

Semantic search, and likely presumptive search is the way we’re heading. Soon you won’t even really have to search for an item or a website, the bots, or whatever technology it is running things at that time, would know what you’re looking for within your first few terms you type. It might seem scary, it may even seem intrusive at this point in the way the world works and how people think. The simplest truth however is, this is where the web and search is going. It also means that from my point of view, the job of online branding and branding online will become vastly more important than it is today.

Basic Web Practices and Your CMS

When we build a website for a client, whether they’re in Winnipeg or anywhere else in the world, we make sure that any kind of forward thinking marketing is covered. And since we’re in the business of online branding and internet marketing, we try and make sure that each website we develop has the capabilities to become a leader in their niche, so long as they decide they want too. We didn’t just come up with some arbitrary stats which we settled on, there are some very specific points that we look for. We’ll go over a handful of the options this time around, if you’re involved in the industry in any way, you’ll probably recognize some traits in the platform you use.

One of the very first points that is a necessity, is being ablt to customize page titles, and the meta tags of each page. If it’s a properly built website, and you’re following the best practice guide that both Google and Bing have readily available, then you should know already that having an identical title or tags on all of your pages is a big no-no. You should at the very least be able to customize each page title, meta data, and your header tags, if you can’t manage these very basic snippets of information on your site, then you’ve already started off on the wrong foot and we haven’t even gotten to the hard stuff yet!

I’ve touched on this point several times, but when you’re building your site you need to think about the navigation menu. And I’m not referring creating a singing and dancing menu that thanks a visitor for being a part of the website experience, I’m looking more at a navigation menu that uses CSS to control the display elements. You can have an impressively interactive navigation menu just by using CSS elements, which are easily indexed by all of the search engines and are much more responsive than a java or flash equivalent. Besides being responsive and a solid display method, it also allows you to control the contents of the menu, so if you happen to make a spelling mistake, don’t be surprised to find it indexed if you’re not paying attention.

It is an often overlooked feature, as a normal site owner doesn’t usually think about the website link beyond the main address, but being able to control how your URLs are created is a major point where best website development practices are concerned. If you’ve ever been on a major online shopping site like Ebay for example, if you’ve ever copied and pasted a link of a page to an email you’d notice the link contains a mess of letters a numbers (=item20cdb2380c&_uhb=1#ht_599wt_1139). These letters and numbers aren’t there for users, they’re definitely SEO unfriendly, and need to be avoided at all costs if possible.

These are only a couple of the very basic best practices that you’ll find discussed in any of the website development guides out there. If you’ve got the time, you should work your way through your site and if you have it, your CMS backend and ensure that you have all of the above listed functionality. If you’ve learned that you don’t have these capabilities, get in touch with us here at Freshtraffic as soon as possible and we’ll get that taken care of for you. The longer you wait on necessary changes like the above, the deeper you could be lost in the results pages.

The Fine Line of Privacy and Censorship

It’s no secret that Google is the big kahuna where search is concerned, and they make enough money year after year they should have their own printing press. But for the last year or so especially, Google has been the target of some anti-trust and privacy issues across the globe, with advocates pushing for more from the search giant. Claims that it takes too long to clean up your past from the search engine, and blaming the provider for results deemed inappropriate.

The web is at it’s core, a giant repository of everything. Pictures, videos, text, scripts, code and trillions upon trillions of 1s and 0s that make up websites and documents. It is often a strange sensation to be able to go back to an old website you used to frequent, read some of your past ramblings and wonder, what was wrong with me, or, why would I write something like that? With the way the internet holds onto its history, you can often find information about anything or anyone for that matter. You would be hard pressed to think up a legitimate search topic that wouldn’t appear on a search engine somewhere, and it’s highly likely that Google as well has it indexed and stored on one of it’s multitude of data centers across the globe.

It’s that level of access to information that seems to have the hackles of some of the population up, and has them trying to call for regulations on search engines. Soon it won’t be just Google that will be caught up in these privacy and anti trust regulation talks. Google is being made an example of because they’re the biggest target out there, and so, who better to hit. The plain and simple point of contention of access to information isn’t a search problem, I’d blame it more on a generational divide. The yougest users of the web, those 13-18 year olds have grown up with 24/7 access to the web and all of it’s content, while the top end of the user range, that 65+ age range, sees the internet in a completely different way.

40 years ago when a family went on vacation and took snap shots, they didn’t share them with 400 of their friends on a social network. It was maybe the 6-10 close family friends that they shared their details with, and so they could control their information and had a semblance of privacy. Flash forward to now with the same family, and you have little sister posting pictures to Instagram and Facebook, while the 17 year old son is watching a steaming Netflix movie. Mom and dad are using a GPS navigational system with turn by turn functionality, and are setting up a video chat with the friends they’re on their way to visit. Everytime that photo is viewed on Facebook or Instagram, it’s being saved with another web address, in another location. Everytime you’ve used your Skype or iPhone to conduct a video call, the connection and duration has been saved on a data server, and every movie or show you stream online has helped define what your likes and dislikes are with the service, so you can have a better targeted product to view at a later date. It used to be called personal accountability, if you didn’t want to be viewed in a certain way, you just didn’t act that way, and it’s become even more important to conduct yourself well.

Privacy hasn’t disappeared, but it’s definitely not the same as it was 40 years ago, as a person living in the digital age you need to be acutely aware of your online conduct. Because everything you say, do, or post is saved somewhere. Google, Bing, Yahoo, and all of the other search engines just search for information. They do not operate with bias or under the control of some megalomaniac with a god complex who is out to control the world. All they do is take a mess of 1s and 0s, and display them in a way that a person can understand them. And just remember that the information that people are trying so hard to push Google to bury, erase and hide, can be found just as quickly on the other major search engines out there.